Night Gallery is pleased to present Part Two of our ten-year anniversary exhibition Majeure Force. This exhibition showcases the brilliant artists whose work has graced our gallery since we opened our doors and also artists whose work will be included in upcoming exhibitions. In the face of the global pandemic, the exhibition takes on new significance, a display of the creative spirit and the deep roots of our community, which has rallied together to produce this beautiful collective effort during times of turbulence.
The thrust of history can be felt throughout Majeure Force, Part Two, regarded with a mix of reverence, ambivalence, and subversion. Works by Kandis Williams, Jesse Mockrin, and Rashaad Newsome crop, cut, and reassemble historic works of art, destabilizing prevalent narratives and invigorating appropriated imagery with new meaning. Others, like Tau Lewis, Grant Levy-Lucero, Khari Johnson-Ricks, and Anne Libby, revive craft-based traditions to gesture toward contemporary experiences, placing their own creative endeavors within the continuum of our collective past. Other works speak to the timelessness of influence, whether by sneaky allusion, as in Andy Woll’s “Mt. Wilson (Velázquez IV),” or through direct depiction, as in Cynthia Daignault’s “Screen Test: John.” And still others speak reflectively on the passage of time: Paul Heyer floods timeless symbols with new meaning, toward a utopian vision, while Melanie Schiff’s photographs speak to the layers of mediation that define our momentary experiences.
Across two installments, Majeure Force features work by Marcel Alcalá, Sarah Awad, Andrea Marie Breiling, Cara Benedetto, Han Bing, Derek Boshier, Josh Callaghan, Cynthia Daignault, Mira Dancy, Ian Davis, Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack, Awol Erizku, Derek Fordjour, Samara Golden, Paul Heyer, Ridley Howard, Tomashi Jackson, Khari Johnson-Ricks, JPW3, Wanda Koop, David Korty, Grant Levy-Lucero, Tau Lewis, Anne Libby, Jasmine Little, Rose Marcus, Jesse Mockrin, Robert Nava, Rashaad Newsome, Elise Rasmussen, Anna Rosen, Brie Ruais, Sterling Ruby, Melanie Schiff, Elaine Stocki, Claire Tabouret, Marisa Takal, Sean Townley, Christine Wang, Sterling Wells, Kandis Williams, and Andy Woll.
Across disciplines, Kandis Williams’ work focuses on the body as a site of experience that is simultaneously co-opted as a symbol by the spectator. Her collage work frequently incorporates images from anthropological textbooks alongside images from contemporary advertising, counterculture celebrities, and dance performances, placed in formal compositions that belie their philosophical tensions. Williams has frequently returned to botanical imagery, drawing a comparison between human sexuality and the reproductive systems of plants. In doing so, she points out the artifice of metaphor as it debases and moralizes the concept of the ecosystem into narratives of force and opposition.
Samara Golden’s sculptures and installations create surreal, richly psychological experiences that warp the viewer’s perception of space. Installed on walls and ceilings, her sculptures recreate social settings from impossible vantage points, seemingly defying gravity through plays of scale and use of sculptural trompe l’oeil. “Where is my thinking cap?,” 2020, presents a life-sized banquet table mounted on the wall so that the viewer may see its bountiful offerings from the perspective of a bird’s eye view. The particularity of the table settings – baked fish resting atop its aluminum wrapping, a bottle of Sutter Home wine, a tiny tupperware container for salad dressing, among others – conjures a scene of unexpected social specificity, lending the tableau an uncanny, dreamlike familiarity. Close inspection of the work, meanwhile, reveals Golden’s plays of material. Working primarily with epoxy resin atop foam board, Golden conjures a stunning array of objects of completely different textures and densities, from fried eggs to whipped cream to the very tablecloth upon which everything sits, which “falls” to the “floor” as though by alternative laws of physics. The feast is an elaborate fiction, though it, too, is hand-made in the manner of the festive meal it replicates, revealing the place of the artist within the seemingly anonymous and hallucinatory world of her own making.
Khari Johnson-Ricks’ artworks build dreamlike scenes from hand-cut paper constructions, conjuring action-packed tableaus amid surreal landscapes. These images find moments of physical tension as opportunities for formal reconciliation. The specificity of bodies-in-montion on display in Johnson-Ricks’ paintings pay tribute to real gestures and physical practices inscribed with historic and communal meaning; as the artist writes, “Cultivating these movement practices acts as space for sanctuary and becomes a covert language especially for marginalized people... The collection of movement traditions and the making of new ones continues to be one of the most important reminders of the self and the community and can propel questions of joy, love, safety, health and history.” Fraught yet balanced, frozen yet vigorous, the works ultimately suggest worlds of sweeping possibility distilled from the everyday.
Rashaad Newsome’s Twirl assembles a figure from images of 17th – 19th century African sculptures. As the artist writes, “This work attempts to reestablish the Black bodies and sculptures as not consumable but rather lasting and heroic. [...] The pose is inspired by vogue spin dips and treats them as a form of active meditation. It's a bit like whirling dervishes. While whirling is concerned with ideas of perfection through constant spinning, spin dips always break the spin and end in a collapse onto the floor. For me, that collapse at the end of the spin is an allegory for the transgressive moment when one lets go of the binary of imperfect and perfect and engages in the incredible pedagogy of reflecting and course correcting.”